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Florence Renaissance Compassion

Turner’s ideas on Michelangelo’s David are very specific in its placement in front of the Palazzo della Signoria. The main elements Turner believes, that supported the statues presence at the Palazzo were mainly business or economics of Florence as well as religion, as Turner states, “If business was one of the religions of Florence, equally the Christian religion was inseparable from business” (Turner 53). Considering this opinion of Turner it is no wonder that the Guild commissioned Michelangelo to depict one of the more heroic tales of the bible.

With David having defeated Goliath, just as Florence had narrowly won the battle against Milan in 1402 it is no wonder that the Florentine’s placed Michelangelo’s sculpture at such an important place. It is this idea of freedom, of the underdog winning against a seemingly indomitable force that gives added significance to David for the Florentines as Turner states, “…out of that close brush with loss of freedom [Milan losing to Florence] the Florentines became more keenly aware of the status and responsibility as one of few free republics on the peninsula.

” (Turner 67). The significance of the statue in regards to religion and the state of Florence during the Renaissance has been discussed, but what did Turner think of the physical placement of the statue in the Palazzo? What was so important about that geographical area to Florentines? The Palazzo Vecchio or Palazzo della Signoria is a testament to the power of Florence. The Palazzo gives Florentines and visitors a way into seeing the past grandeur of Florence. The Palazzo is akin to a fortress that is devoted to art.

The Palazzo was also the seat of governing power, or the Republic (aka, the Signoria). Thus, the building itself is a witness to Florence’s republican-democratic power. Also, the business and ruling family the Medici’s who were found art patrons during the Renaissance and aided in the boom of economy in Florence were associated with the Palazzo. The guild along with the Medici family and other ruling bodies of Florence gave rise to the creative genius of the Renaissance – thus, their patronage and a spot in the niches of the Orsanmichele and the Palazzo were highly prized.

Such a commission from the guild was considered a great mark of respect as the guild would fund the artist in materials as well as money for time they worked on their art and such enterprise would not have been able to be met is Florence had fallen under Milan rule. The guilds then were a class of merchants and businessmen who allowed for high art commissions as Turner states, “When the niches were filled with statues, the insignia of a guild above each niche, a visitor to the city would be reminded both of the remarkable individual enterprise of a guild and the economic infrastructure of the guild system, the miracle of early Europe.

” (Turner 53). It is the mindset of Florentines that allow for Michelangelo’s David to hold such a powerful force both politically, religiously and historically not to mention artistically. Although the genius of the statue of an art piece cannot be ignored, the history of the statue and its significance to the people’s of Florence, Michelangelo’s own people, must give pause to modern viewers. Its placement at the Palazzo tells another story of how Florence’s economical stability after a war with Milan allowed for art patrons, and the guild to commission such grand works.

Thus, the statue plays a role in Florence wealth and power which Turner highlights in his text. 3. Most story tellers like to create atmosphere for their story – this can be achieved through either concrete imagery or through historical fact. In the case of Boccaccio’s Decameron the narrator of the tale (and subsequently the author) chose to begin the tale by speaking about the Black Death, or the Plague that killed 1/3 of Europe. Boccaccio tells of this because he wishes to create atmosphere and because it would have been recent in everyone’s memory and therefore he would have been unable to avoid its mention.

However, Boccaccio also had another thing in mind in mentioning the Plague, which is to reassure his readers of something finer on the other side of death as the narrator states, “The horrible beginning [Plague] will be like the ascent of a steep and rough mountainside, beyond which there lies a most beautiful and delightful plain, and the degree of pleasure derived by the climbers will be in proportion to the difficulty of the climb and the descent. And just as pain is the extreme limit of pleasure, so, then, misery ends with the unanticipated happiness” (Boccaccio 64).

Therefore, Boccaccio mentions the Plague and its miseries only in order to compare it to a greater happiness at the end of his stories. Perhaps Boccaccio’s compassion as a story teller is more fulfilling in its promise of promising his readers a happy ending, as he writes, “Therefore, I wish to make up in part for the wrong done by Fortune, who is less generous with her support where there is less strength, as we witness in the case of our delicate ladies” (Boccaccio 65). It is then a lesson in compassion after a travesty that Boccaccio tells his story.

Compassion is a godly trait, insomuch as it allows for the individual receiving it to have peace of mind. For Boccaccio, compassion is something that should be given to those who suffer, to allow them to feel more human, as well as to allow the compassionate to feel humane. For Boccaccio, compassion has a simple definition – the support of a friend, as he states, “In my suffering, the pleasant conversation and the admirable consolation of a friend on a number of occasions gave me much relief, and I am firmly convinced I should now be dead if it had not been for that” (Boccaccio 62).

Thus, the narrator’s life is indebted to this friend who exhibited compassion and if nothing else, a shoulder to support them. Compassion is an extension of that support. Boccaccio tells of compassion as being better handled by women than with men. In support of this conjecture he states that women are confined in their rooms to dream or lust after things and they must bear their thoughts to their fruition unlike a man who simply has to walk or fish away such un-pleasantries.

Thus, a woman is made more able to cope with difficulties and to bear a more than reasonable amount of empathy for anyone who suffers because of their own experience with suffering, as Boccaccio states, “And who will deny that such comfort, no matter how insufficient, is more fittingly bestowed on charming ladies than on men? ” (Boccaccio 63). In discussing compassion in his book, Boccaccio’s best example of this trait in humans is told in his story The Story of Balducci and his Son. Balducci is a man who has lost his wife.

They had a son together, but without the love of his life in his life, Balducci becomes despondent. He renounces the world and decides to dedicate his years to God, and to do the same for his son. Thus, the two family members are in service of God in a little hut on the top of Mount Asinaio. Compassion is found in Balducci trusting his son to come to town with him after being secluded from society most of his life. Although Balducci exhibits limited compassion, it is there nonetheless. When the son of the story goes into Florence with his father, he only has eyes for women.

He has seen nothing so beautiful or charming. He asks his father if he may bring a ‘gosling’ home and feed it (for the father has told the son that the name for women is gosling). The father is refusing the sons request, and realizes that nature is more powerful than intelligence. In this realization the father feels he has lost all of the years of upbringing with his son for nature, or carnal pleasure has won. It is at this point that the narrator interrupts the story and tells of how women, their beauty, company, and decorum are what he chiefly desires.

It is these desire that he has measured life by. Thus, the moral of this short piece of fiction is to not judge someone else’s desires by one’s own grief. The father, in his compassion, merely wanted to spare his son the grief of knowing the death of your loved one. Thus, the moral of the story becomes more about personal happiness and how that cannot be judged by anyone. Thus, pleasure is to be had in life and that is what the son is arguing for with his father, he is arguing for the pleasures of life.

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